How to Start a Cleaning Business from Scratch (Step-by-Step)

Photo of author

by Jack Brewer

Updated

Why waste time on a side-hustle and a main gig, when you can start your own business in a constantly-growing industry?

These days, there’s no better time to start a cleaning business in an industry with more than 2 million jobs, and projected growth of more than 105,000 additional jobs by 2029.

Here’s how to start a cleaning business in 7 simple steps. 

1. Choose Your Market

market-cleaning-business

The commercial cleaning services industry is so enormous that it tops $110B yearly. This means not only is there plenty of market share and client contracts up for grabs but there is room for you to decide what you want to do.

You don’t have to end up feeling “forced” into any particular type of cleaning that you may not want to do.

A bonus to this is that no matter what market you choose, you are likely to see increased demand from the current pandemic.

Start in your own backyard

Evaluate your local area, and think about where your services might be most needed or wanted. There are ups and downs to both small and large markets.

.

For example, if you live in a smaller city you may not have the demand to support your business, while in a nearby larger city you may be priced out of serving some businesses by larger janitorial companies.

Be sure not to overextend yourself, however, you don’t want to spend more time traveling than cleaning.

You should evaluate how far you are willing to travel to service your clients. This is of particular importance if you do not have access to private transportation.

If you are saving on overhead and expenses by using public transportation or rideshares, you may have to place a fairly strict limit on how far away you are willing to accept new jobs.

Ensure your drive time reasonable

If you are using private transportation (your vehicle) you will still want to maintain a reasonable service area within a radius from your home.

While using your own, or in some cases borrowed vehicle, you do have the luxury of increased flexibility in travel and schedules, but you increase the wear and tear on your vehicle beyond normal use.

This may not seem significant at first glance, you think an oil change here, some tires there, but there are potentially catastrophic repairs as well like transmission and engine component failures as well.

If you plan accordingly, you may be able to maximize your ratio of travel to clients.

For example, if you’re within reasonable distance from a college or university, you could carve out a lucrative position cleaning student housing.

In many cases this housing, whether on-campus houses or apartments, are concentrated to small areas. This means you can often drive to the general area, then walk from client to client, saving on vehicle expenses and wear.

2. Find Your Niche

Whether or not you are successful ultimately comes down to the quality of your work. Finding your niche is a great way to find your ideal client demographic.

Having a specific skill or expertise allows you to charge a bit more for your experience and abilities. Customers also appreciate safe and eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

Whether you can get any stain out of carpet or you specialize in restoring and maintaining porcelain, use your specialty to your advantage and use it as a selling point in your advertising.

Some cleaners specialize in cleaning apartments for tenants that are moving out and want to get their deposits back, cleaning offices, once a week deep cleaning at people’s homes, and so much more.

3. Plan Your Budget And Expenses

cleaning-business

The two main business expenses you’ll have are transportation and supplies. The cost that you’ll be spending will vary depending on the types of services you offer.

Your business cost will also be impacted by how many people you have on your team. If you have help, you’ll have to pay them, of course.

Supplies

How much you spend on supplies depends on a few factors:

  • Services you offer
  • Number of clients
  • Frequency of jobs

If you have a few clients each week, one of the best money-saving ideas is to buy in bulk.

With retailers such as Costco and Sam’s Club, as well as online markets like Amazon, finding your preferred cleaning supplies in larger quantities is a breeze.

You may have some clients that prefer you use their products or that you purchase the type they like. Others don’t have much preference as long as you do your job well.

Transportation

With any mobile business, transportation costs are going to be a large part of your budget. Your transportation is the foundation of being able to travel for work.

Having the ability to store your cleaning supplies and go from job to job easily will simplify your process. Many people prefer a van or a truck as their work vehicle.

4. How to Pay for Your Cleaning Business

This is often one of the most challenging steps, but accomplishing it is one of the sweetest victories on your way to running your own business.

It is important to iron out your budget before this step since the amount of money you will need will likely impact where you get the money.

You may find you have enough money in your discretionary spending to cover the startup costs.

On the other hand, you may find that you need to move a little money out of savings, or even get a manageable personal loan to help shoulder the burden of getting off the ground.

More than three-quarters of small business startups use personal funds, and about a third of small businesses overall are started with less than $5,000.

One thing you want to be sure to avoid is using credit cards for any significant portion of your business funding. While they may be convenient, the interest rates are often far higher on credit cards than on a loan.

If anything, they should only be considered business funding in an emergency where conventional funds were not available at the time.

5. How to Register Your Cleaning Business

You’ve undoubtedly been brainstorming a business name, and if not, now is the time!

Once you have a name for your brand, you will need to register your business with the state and the federal government. You may also need to file for a DBA license or a Doing Business As license.

This is an extremely simple and straightforward process that can be done entirely online in most cases.

You will need to be licensed to operate a business in your area if it’s required, and if you are smart you will get some basic liability insurance to protect yourself against any potential claims.

Popular options for small cleaning businesses are sole proprietorships and limited liability corporations, or LLC.

While sole proprietorships are often cheaper to establish initially and can provide total control over the business, it can put your assets at risk in situations of falling profitability, whereas an LLC limits that risk.

Once you can legally operate your business, you may want to look into additional credentialing organizations to increase your attractiveness as a cleaning business to enterprise customers. Organizations such as:

  • BSCAI – Building Service Contractors Association International
  • IEHA – International Executive Housekeepers Association
  • ISSA – International Sanitary Supply Association

6. How to Find Customers for a Cleaning Business

The best ways to find customers for a cleaning business include:

  • Social media
  • Local newspaper ads
  • Advertising with local businesses
  • Working with property management companies
  • Church bulletin boards
  • Community gatherings

A great place to begin to get clients initially is via social media.

Not only can you use groups, like neighborhood groups, meetups, and chats, but you can leverage your own social media following as potential clients since many of them are likely to be local to you.

You stand a very good chance of meeting potential clients via these hyperlocal channels, as well as by the traditional front-runner, word-of-mouth.

Not only are word-of-mouth referrals one of the most trusted methods of getting recommendations for traditional products and services, but they are still recognized as one of the leading methods of marketing.

This is carrying over into the digital social space significantly enough that social media giant Facebook rolled out an update recently allowing users to obtain recommendations from people in their feed.

People ask for their friends’ recommendations for cleaners, for example, and it lets their friends add their preferred businesses right there, as well as tag their official page.

7. How to Grow Your Cleaning Business

It is relatively easy to start and operate your own cleaning business, particularly when you are the only employee.

Once you have a robust handful of clients you will only need to worry about maintaining a full schedule, unless you want to expand.

If business is looking up, and you’re doing well, why not consider expanding a bit?

Any business needs to build customer relationships continually, for the benefit of the business over the long-term. Once you’re established, you can begin working with other platforms to take on new clients and even new employees, so that you can grow your business and your success.

Utilize sites like TaskRabbit, Handy, Care, and Fiverr to build your presence and review base.

The more satisfied people you have in one channel saying that they enjoy your service, the more likely you are to gain additional exposure and clients from that channel.

The Ultimate Side Hustle Toolkit

Get FREE access to our toolkit - 79 clever ways to make extra money and helpful tips to get started!

About the Author

Photo of author
Jack Brewer is passionate about all things personal finance, and enjoys testing out new side hustles and investing strategies.